How to Make Self-Tan Last Longer: Tricks of the Trade

Whether you’re preparing for an upcoming beach vacation or want to give your pasty winter skin a little pick-me-up, there’s no faster way to achieve a bronzed body than with a self-tanner. It’s quick and easy and protects your skin from the harmful effects of dangerous UVA and UVB rays. Another desirable quality is that there are many formulas and textures to choose from depending on your skin type and the desired depth of color you’re looking to achieve.

Still, a faux glow takes a bit of finesse before, during, and after the application process to ensure a lasting successful result — no need to worry. We’re sharing a few tricks of the trade to help you pull off a flawless self-tan each time. 

How Long Does Self-Tanner Last? 

Whether you’re a serial self-tanning guru or save it for special occasions, why go through the effort if it won’t last? Factors like skin type and condition, climate, and lifestyle can affect the length of your self-tan. However, with some preparation, attention to application, and daily care, your faux glow can last up to ten days. 

How to Prepare for Self-Tanner

The preparation process can make or break your self—tan’s longevity—it’s the secret to your success —  so set aside enough time to ensure you’re not rushed. 


Whether removing the remnants of an old self-tan application or prepping for bare skin, exfoliating is one step that shouldn’t be missed. Removing dead skin cells ensures an even, long-lasting application. 

Cleanse With the Right Body Wash

Your skin should be clean and dry with no residue before applying self-tanning lotions, so avoid bar soap or creamy- or oil-based body cleansers. Stick to a regular gel-based shower gel

Shave the Day Before

Shave at least 24 hours before applying self-tanner to ensure the hair follicles have closed back up to prevent a speckled appearance from the product settling into the pores. 


You should always apply a moisturizer — body and face — before using a self-tanner to prevent patchy, uneven color — at what moment is a bit controversial. Some experts will tell you the night before, whereas others suggest before self-tanning. Which route you choose depends upon how dry your skin is and what type of self-tanning texture you choose: cream, lotion, mousse, milk, or spray. The thinner and lighter, the less hydrating it will be. Also, remember that when you’re applying moisturizer right before, you’re diluting the effect of the color. 

Strategically Apply a Barrier Cream First 

Apply a barrier cream, like petroleum jelly, to dry, arid areas of your face and body that tend to pick up the color because they’re naturally drier. As a general rule of thumb, we’re talking about the nostrils, lips, brows, hairline, cuticles, fingernails, toes, elbows, knees, and heels. 

Self-Tanning Techniques

Consider Using an Applicator 

Along with protective gloves, consider applying the product with a self-tanning mitt, Kabuki brush, or an applicator strap for hard-to-reach areas like your back and shoulders. There are also more sophisticated machines from brands such as MineTan, which we sell at ProStylingTools. 

Apply In Sections

Apply the self-tanner evenly into the skin in sections — feet to face is one suggestion so you’re not creating ceases on your torso and arms when bending down to reach your legs. 

Wash Hands After Each Section   

Even if you’re using an applicator, prevent orange-colored palms by washing your hands with soap and water after applying the self-tanner to each section of your body. 

Finish the self-tanner application with your hands. Reapply the barrier cream to your nails, cuticles, and between your fingers before distributing tanner to the tops of your hands for a natural, sun-kissed look. 


Use a Kabuki brush, mitt, or hand to blend any unfinished areas if needed. 

Allow Ample Drying Time   

Wait at least 10 minutes before getting dressed, and wear loose-fitted clothing for at least three hours. Avoid sweating and exercise or swimming for at least 24 hours — longer if you’re trying to preserve your tan for a special event within the next day. 


Apply Baby Powder    

Apply baby powder in areas where your body naturally creases — underarms, the space between arm and forearm, behind the knees, etc. 

How to Make Your Self-Tan Last Longer

Exfoliate Every Three Days 

While you don’t want to over-exfoliate, use a gentle face and body polish approximately every three or five days to remove dead skin cells to prevent an uneven appearance in color. 

Moisturize to Extend the Life of Your Tan  

Dry skin is one of the most significant culprits of a dying self-tan. Wait to moisturize until after your first shower (ideally, right after to seal in hydrating benefits) with a formula that won’t strip your tan  — which brings us to our next tip. 

Use a Tan Extender 

Apply specialized products to help promote the longevity of your self-tan. Some capitalize on hydration, whereas others deposit a small amount of gradual color to kill two birds with one stone. 

That’s entirely up to you. Pro, novice, weekly, or once in a blue moon, the pre-and post-care remains the same. Check out our entire collection of self-tanning products.
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